MR CALEB KILNER
DEATH OF CONISBROUGH GLASS BOTTLE CHIEF
A Rugged Captain of Industry
An Inspiring Career
Mr. Caleb Kilner
Mr. Caleb Kilner JP of
Ivanhoe Lodge Conisbrough, died very suddenly on Sunday morning (9th
March 1920). He had been in indifferent health for a month, but was
sufficiently well to travel to Doncaster on Saturday with his son Mr. George
Kilner. On Sunday morning about five o’clock, he had a heart seizure, and
died within half an hour.
Mr. Kilner was in is
seventy seventh year and was the head of the well known glass bottle firm of
Kilner Brothers (Limited). For over half a century he had been a commanding
figure in the Yorkshire Glass Bottle trade, and in the public and religious
life of the Conisbrough district. He was a man of the highest probity, and
combined business genius, with strictest commercial rectitude. His was a
rugged, but attractive personality, he was a homely soul and his relations
with his workpeople had the old fashioned freedom of mid Victorian values.
He conceived the Whitely spirit fifty years before Whitelyism was heard of.
Nowhere in the district is there a happier industrial establishment than the
flourishing glass bottle works at Conisbrough. Mr. Kilner will be remembered
for many desirable qualities, but he will be remembered particularly as an
industrial pioneer, who made a great deal of money honestly, pleasantly and
wholesomely. His life is an example of the success which waits upon
industry, perseverance, patience, and intelligence.
Conisbrough Glassworks 1894
He was born in Castleford
in 1843, the son of George and Charlotte Kilner, and the Grandson of John
Kilner of Thornhill Lees Dewsbury, the founder of the firm of Kilner
Brothers. He was educated at Thornhill Grammar School and entered his
grandfather’s factory at a very early age. His first job, for which he was
paid two shillings a week, was to prepare clay rolls for the crucible
makers. He learned as a workman every process of bottle manufacture, and
reached the bottle makers ‘chair’ before he was 18 years of age. His
practical education completed, he was given charge of a small department of
the Thornhill works and ‘making’ good there he was sent with his cousin, the
late Kilner Bateson, to open a branch at Conisbrough, the Don Valley
district having just been discovered by the glass bottle trade. That was in
1866. The Conisbrough branch was started with two small ‘Pot’ Shops, each of
eight holes and employed 70 people in all. Today there are six shops with 64
holes, employing about 500 people, many of whom either families are housed
by the firm. The Conisbrough branch flourished from the onset, but it
involved tremendously hard work. Many small employers in those days worked
side by side with there men, encouraging them by there example. Mr. Kilner’s
oldest employee, Henry Senior who came with him from Thornhill Lees, said on
a recent occasion that he had seen Mr. Kilner in those early days, working
up to his waste in water.
The business prospered,
both at Conisbrough and Thornhill, but notably at Conisbrough, where it was
under the direct influence of Mr. Caleb Kilner, who was in closest touch
with every movement of the trade, and was constantly revising methods of
manufacture and bringing them up to date. He was enterprising in instinct,
was very amenable to suggestion and advice, was very approachable, had many
sound commercial ideas of his own,
Thornhill St Michael’s
and would reject no
proposition on the ground of expense alone. He was very solicitous for his
workpeople, proud of the excellent output they maintained, and always based
his relations with them, which were rather those of a college than of a
master, on the principle of a fair days work. He was deservedly popular with
his workpeople, and the leisure of his deckling days found him busy with
plans for a comfortable recreation club for them.
He was of the leading
employers in the Yorkshire section of the industry and was for several years
president and afterwards vice president of the Yorkshire Glass Bottle
manufactures association. He also served on the committee of the National
Glass Bottle Manufactures association. Outside the three establishments of
Kilner Brothers, he had a number of commercial interests, including
shipping. He was from 1908 until his death, chairman of the Conisbrough Gas
Company. In 1916 the workpeople of Conisbrough celebrated the Jubilee of the
Conisbrough establishment by presenting to him through his oldest workman
Mr. Henry Senior (referred to above) a handsome silver salver.
Outside business Mr. Kilner
had two strong enthusiasms, one was Wesleyan Methodism, and the other was
He served the public of
Conisbrough for many years as way warden on the old highway board and later
(in 1903), as a member of Doncaster Rural District Council in conjunction
with Mr. Frank Ogly. And in succession to the late Mr. Holmes. He was a
member and sometime chairman of the Conisbrough Burial Board and helped to
plan the cemetery in which he was laid to rest this week.
He was a member for 18
years of the Conisbrough School Board, and for the last three years was
chairman. His first public appointment was that of overseer.
He took a great deal of
interest in this work, and held the office with great benefit to
Conisbrough, for a number of years.
The increasing claims of
business caused him gradually to relinquish his public duties some 15 years
ago, but his services to the district were very suitably recognised in 1906
by his appointment to the commission of the Peace for the West Riding. He
sat at Doncaster. And was very diligent and conscientious in the discharge
of his magisterial functions.
By no one will his death be
more keenly felt than by the Wesleyan Methodists of Conisbrough and
generally of the Doncaster (Oxford Road) Circuit.
He was a devoted Wesleyan
and supported the body with the uttermost liberality and enthusiasm. He was
particularly helpful when the handsome
Wesleyan Church at
Conisbrough was erected at a cost of £4,000.
He did not; moreover
confine his generosity to Methodist causes. He was a good friend of other
denominations, and also of undenominational movements of a charitable and
His private benefactions
were very considerable. There was in all he did a quiet undertone of piety
and humility. He was sterling Christian.
Conisbrough St Peter
Mr. Kilner was twice
married, first to a Miss Sarah Kitson of Thornhill Lees, and then to Miss
Bates, a daughter of Alderman John Bates of Dewsbury.
His second wife died in
1911. Mr. Kilner is survived by a son Mr. George Kilner, who was associated
with him in the direction of the firm, and two married daughters.
On Tuesday at the Doncaster
West Riding Police Court, the chairman Mr. J. Dymond referred to the loss
the Bench and the local community had sustained by the death of Mr. Caleb
Kilner a valued and esteemed member of that Bench. Later the magistrates
passed a resolution of sympathy with the family.
Mr. Kilner had been a
trustee of the Conisbrough Wesleyan Church for twenty years and the Rev H.
Middlewood paid an eloquent tribute to his memory at each of the services.
The funeral took place at
the Conisbrough cemetery on Wednesday, amid many manifestations of sorrow.
As a mark of respect from the townspeople nearly all the blinds were drawn
along the route from the Lodge to the burial ground, while hundreds of
people assembled to pay a last tribute at the graveside. Preceding the
committal ceremony a short service was held at the Wesleyan Methodist Church
conducted by the Rev N J Willis (of Goole and formally resident minister at
Conisbrough), assisted by the Rev H. Middlewood, the Rev F. M Halstead
(Superintendent of the Doncaster Oxford place Circuit) and the Rev H. C
Dailimoore. Mr. J. Johnson presided at the organ and the hymn "When the
weary seeking rest" and I bring my sins to them" (the latter of which was a
great favourite of the late Mr. Kilner) were sung. The remains, enclosed in
a plain oak coffin, were born into the church by Mesers T. Brooke, J.
Gentle, W. Kelly, J. Casey, W. Lindley (my Grandfather *), J. Hirst, T. Senior
and W. Hulley all employees at the glass works. The sanctuary was filled to
overflowing and a large number of people unable to gain admittance waited
outside in reverent attendance. Mr. Willis paid a high tribute to the late
Mr. Kilner, whose life he said had been one based on noble and beautiful
The cortège was headed by
the deceased‘s workpeople, about 400 in number, who lined the entrance to
the cemetery, which the body of there beloved employer was carried to the
last resting place.
The family mourners were:
Mr. and Mrs. G. Kilner (son and daughter in law), Mr. And Mrs. H. Smethhurst
(daughter and son in law), Miss G and master H. K Smethhurst
(grandchildren), Mrs. J. H. Watkinson, Cleethorpes, (daughter), Mrs.
Drumond (granddaughter), Mr. and Mrs. G. Knowles, Thornhill lees (sister and
brother in law), Mr. and Mrs. K. Goldsbrough, Thornhill Lees, (sister and
brother in law), Mesers R and A. Goldsbrough (nephews), Mr. T. Kilner,
Thornhill Lees (brother), Mr. F. Kilner, London, (cousin), Mr. H. B. Kilner
(London), Mr. and Mrs. S. Kilner (Doncaster), Mr. F. Knowles, Thornhill Lees
(nephew), Mr. and Mrs. Fitton, Dewsbury, (niece), Mrs. A. Fenton
Bridlington, (sister in law), Mr. and Mrs. N. Bennet, Blackstone (sister in
law) Mr. George Bateson and Mr. A. Bateson.
Among those present at the
Chapel and graveside were: Mr. J. Alexander (National Glass Bottle
Association), Mr. G. B. Bagler, (Yorkshire Flint Bottle Association), Mr. H.
Dyer, ( Secretary to the Flint Bottle Association) Mesers H. H. and W, J.
Asquith, (representing Mesers, Reefers Barnsley), Mr. C.C. White, (for
Mesers Waddington, Mexbrough), Mr. Alex Baron, junior, (for Mesers Baron,
Mexbrough), Mr. Baron Kilner (Baron Kilner and Sons, Wakefield), Mr. Brown
(for Mesers Dale Brown, Swinton), Mr. F. Sweeting (managing Director of
Castleford Glassworks), Mr. and Mrs. W. A. Gordon (engineer in charge of
extensions), Mr. H. W. Smith, ( Denaby Colliery), Mr. H. Hulley, (Cadeby
Colliery), Mr. F. Ogly, C. C, Mr. P. White (representing Captain F. J. O.
Montagu, Ald P. Bancroft Coward ( Rotherham), Supt Minty, (West Riding
Constabulary), Mesers Hinchcliffe and Pettifer, (West Riding Justices), Mr.
C. Reasbook, (Commercial Manager at Thornhill Lees), Mesers R. Crawshaw, G.
Nicholson,, C.A. Ream, H. A. Wilkinson and G. Roberts (representing
Conisbrough Gas Company), Mesers S. C Urch, W. Appleyard, W. H. Jones.
Hartley and Haggar, (representing Conisbrough Council), Mrs. A. Baron,
Mesers J. W. and A. E Hattersley (Queens Foundry Swinton- My father worked
there, G. W. Lindley), Mr. G. Appleyard, senior, Mr. W. A. Twelves, Mr. and
Mrs. Clarkson, Mr. H. Russell, (Bawtry), Mr. J. Brocklesby, J. P, Mr. A.
Smalley (representing Smalley and Harrop, Mexbrough), Mesers G and H.
Brocklesby, Mr. W.W. Norwood, Mr. Scrimshaw, Mr. T. R. Booth, Mr. H. E.
Nicholson, Mr. M. Nicholson, Mr. Milner (Clifton), Mr. W.R. Bell, Mr. G. W.
Rollings, Mr. W. Ellis, Dr and Mrs. J. Maclure, Mesers E and R. T. Wilson,
Mr. R. Clarkson, Mr. H. Saville, Mesers R and R. J. Troughton, Mr. J.
Turnbull, Mesers R. and G. Ward, the Misses Clarkson and Mr. R. Fenton,
(Castleford Assistant Secretary To Glass Bottle Trade Protection Society).
Mr. W. H. Chambers was
unable to be present due to illness (managing director of Denaby and Cadeby
The floral tributes
included, tokens from Mr. and Mrs. G. Kilner and Mrs. M. L. Smethurst,
‘Pollie’ ( Mrs. Watkinson), Mr. F. Bateson, ‘Sylvia and Fred’ (granddaughter
and grandson), Mr. and Mrs. G. Bateson, Miss Audrey Kilner, Mrs. G. W.
Kilner, and daughter, Mr. T. Kilner and family, Katherine and Charlie,
(granddaughter and grandson), Dollie and Edna (grandchildren), the Yorkshire
Flint glass Bottle Manufactures Association, Engineers Department of Kilner
Brothers, members of the Glass Bottlemakers Sick and Dividing Club, members
of the Glass Bottlemakers Trade Protection Society, (Conisbrough), members
and friends of the Wesleyan Chapel (Conisbrough), Mr. C. Reasbeck, Mr. and
Mrs. F. Ogly, staff of the London office, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas, and family,
Mr. and Mrs. Laycock, and family, Mrs. Gledhill, Mr. R. Rich, Mr. W. Bagley,
(Knottingley), Mesers J. W. and A. E Hattersley, Mr. R. Troughton, Mr. and
Mrs. A. Baron, (Mexbrough), Mrs. Nicholson and Mr. Morton Nicholson, Ald.
Smith (Doncaster), Mr. and Mrs. H. E. Nicholson, Mesers R. H. R.J. and H. H.
Sharpe, Mrs. H. Baker, Mr. and Mrs. W.W. Norwood, Mr. W. A. Gordon,
(Doncaster), Mr. S. Whitefield, Mr. R.J. Clarkson and Mr. and Mrs.
Brocklesby and family.
Courtesy of *John Lindley
Note: Although there
is no relationship with the Kilner family this article as been put on the
site as many Ackroyd's and Lindley's, and other family names worked at the
Kilner Glassworks . It is therefore a part of the family history of our